Defense Department officials today announced the first Sexual Assault Prevention Innovation Award to recognize military and civilian contributions that advance the department’s goals of preventing sexual assault.
Core elements of the military’s strategy to prevent sexual assault include the promotion of innovative ideas and enhanced collaboration among the services, officials said.
In May, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled a new roadmap for preventing military sexual assault that officials said reflects a wide range of integrated programs to influence behavior and reduce the crime of sexual assault. The 2014-2016 Sexual Assault Prevention Strategy was developed in collaboration with civilian experts and is intensely focused on shaping the environment where service members live and work, officials said, noting that it expands on the initial strategy published in 2008.
The Sexual Assault Prevention Innovation Award is expected to encourage units to be innovative and develop effective prevention programs and tactics using the updated sexual assault prevention strategy. Award submissions will be evaluated for their ability to contribute or develop an innovative idea, concept, methodology or approach to positively affect sexual assault prevention programs on an installation, in a deployed environment or in a reserve component, officials explained.
“Within this new strategic framework, leaders are identified and provided the tools and training to assist in the development of appropriate prevention programs and initiatives,” said Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow, director of DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “We know that we need to influence the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of service members, and this updated prevention strategy is designed to incorporate core values and standards of behavior more effectively.”
In developing the updated prevention strategy, the Defense Department collaborated with many organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and identified hundreds of prevention ideas and concepts, officials said. Military and civilian leaders considered what programs could be incorporated for DOD and determined those that needed to be adapted based on the military’s unique needs, they added.
“Insights from the experts were instrumental in ensuring the department tapped into existing proven prevention strategies,” said Army Col. Litonya Wilson, deputy director of DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “Public health and safety organizations around the world employ this model to combat preventable disease, tobacco use, youth violence and many other health-related issues. Our prevention strategy applies a social ecological model employed by CDC which advocates prevention initiatives and intervention at every level of society.”
The Defense Department revised the civilian model to incorporate leaders as a central and critical component of the prevention model, officials said, explaining that this framework is used to understand different influences on a person’s values, attitudes and behaviors and their relationship to one another. Also, they said, it underscores that leaders from every level of the organization must play a role in establishing a climate that supports sexual assault prevention while placing renewed emphasis on institutionalizing sexual assault prevention policies and practices.
“Defense Department leaders have skillfully distilled a large amount of information into a solid and thoughtful strategy,” said Dr. Howard Spivak, director of the violence prevention division at CDC. “The military structure provides some unique opportunities to implement prevention strategies and evaluate the impact. In addition, these efforts in the military have the potential to inform and advance the work in the broader field of sexual violence prevention.”
DOD officials said the updated sexual assault prevention strategy is designed to advance:
- A comprehensive prevention approach focused on commanders’ renewed attention to healthy command climate in their units;
- Deterrence and accountability for misconduct inconsistent with military values;
- Training for all personnel to intervene in incidents of sexual harassment and assault; and
- Using leadership mentoring and role-modeling as a way to develop healthy relationship skills.
“The military’s sexual assault prevention strategy is a promising document that embodies a comprehensive vision of prevention with the emphasis put in the right places,” said Dr. Alan Berkowitz, a noted scholar and sexual assault prevention expert for all five branches of the military.
“Eliminating sexual assault from the military will take a personal commitment from all service members, and especially from leaders,” Berkowitz said. “This plan provides the tools to help leaders create an environment that provides dignity and respect for all members of the armed services.”